|No Nonsense XML Web Development with PHP|
|summary||XML, XSLT, XPath and DOM primer for PHP developers|
Thomas Myer's No Nonsense XML Web Development with PHP is an XML primer for those who have been exposed to PHP, but are yet waiting to appreciate the elegance of PHP+XML solutions. Throughout 10 chapters and 2 appendices Myer is introducing the reader to different aspects of XML, their best-practice implementations in LAMP (where last P stands for PHP) environment, and their relevance to the real world. For the real-world example Myer decides to guide the reader through writing a custom content management system - complete with publishing/admin interface, templating/presentation layer, search engine, RSS feeds and other commonly expected features.
The book is not an introduction to PHP, but it does assume that the Web developer knows what XML is, but has never dealt with it. So the first chapter just talks about properly parsing XML with IE and Firefox, validating an XML document, differences between a well-formed and a valid XML document. Overall, it provides a very good introduction to XML for someone who has never dealt with it, and could probably be skipped by developers with XML exposure.
Chapter 2, XML in Practice, goes into nitty-gritty details of XML, and 26 pages later the reader knows how to create an XML file to display in the browser, declare proper namespaces, attach a CSS file to existing XML file and display the proper XML+CSS file (look, Ma, no <html>!) in the browser. The author earns instant geek credibility by displaying Firefox screenshots, with the exception of IE screenshot whenever IE is discussed. At the end of the chapter the author takes us through the basic XSLT.
Chapter 8 takes the reader through RDF and RSS, discusses the ways the syndication feeds are used on the Web nowadays. Since throughout all these chapters we're building a content management system, this is the right time to add the RSS headlines functionality to the site. The next chapter discusses another practical implementation of XML on the Web - XML-RPC calls between the sites and proper ways of exchanging data via XML Web services. The chapter discusses SOAP, although not a whole lot, and just mentions REST as another way to implement Web Services. As a practical exercise, the author takes readers on a tour of building an XML-RPC client, server and connecting those two together.
The last chapter talks about using XML with databases. Native XML databases are discussed, but let's face it - most of the PHP development is done with relational databases anyway. Myer talks about exporting MySQL database contents into XML with phpMyAdmin and mysqldump. The first appendix includes function reference for SAX, DOM and SimpleXML parsing in PHP, while the second one completes the CMS project by providing the rest of the necessary files.
I found the author's style very easy to follow and approachable. The code samples are succinct and to the point, there are also no generic discussions, such as "Why PHP?" The project chosen for the practical implementation is a bit boring, but at the same time quite real-world. The screenshots are clear, and code examples are nicely highlighted. The errata is provided on the book Web site. Code archive is available as a single file download as well. The book site also provides 100% money back guarantee (less shipping and handling fees) to anyone who bought the title, and didn't feel like they were getting their money's worth.
However, there are a few drawbacks that I noticed as well. With topics like XSLT and XPath broken into several chapters and discussed in smaller chunks, it's hard to use the book as a reference later on. Appendix A with PHP function reference for XML parsing hardly seems like a worthy addition, since PHP manual page on the subject contains equivalent information with more real-life examples contributed by users.
With all that, the book is quite informative, educational and useful. The author manages to tackle quite a few difficult topics in 260 pages provided to him (the count excludes preface and appendices). However, kudos to the author for writing chapters on XML without sounding boring, redundant or too academic. I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in developing PHP-driven Web sites that provide or consume Web services, work with XML data or generate XML for others to use."
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